Canada Goose

Posted: April 19, 2019 in Birds, Natural History



The Canada Goose was originally a native of North America. A few individuals manage to reach the UK naturally each year. However, the vast majority of the population dates from introductions. Historical records show that this was likely to have begun in the early 17th century, when a group of geese were presented to King Louis XIII in Paris. In the UK the first recorded introduction was in the late 17th century, when a group of Canada Geese were introduced into the Royal wildfowl collection in St James’s Park. From these small beginnings, it is estimated that the current UK breeding population is 62,000 pairs and the wintering population is around 190,000 birds.



The Canada goose has become a common bird of UK lakes, gravel pits and urban parks. They usually form monogamous pairings which stay together until one bird dies. They can lay between 2-9 eggs per pair per year (average five) and it is not uncommon on our local lake to have 10 to 15 young every summer. In the UK there are not many things that will take even a half grown Canada goose and so it is easy to see how their numbers prospered over the years. Indeed, in some places measures have had to be taken to limit their success and prevent them becoming a pest. Interestingly, the UK population unlike its American counterpart tends to be a resident species with very limited migration.

Working at home today with a wonderful view from my study window

Edward was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He ascended to the throne at the age of 60 on the death of his mother in 1901 and reigned for 9 years.

The statue, which stands in Waterloo Place, was erected by his son, King George V in 1921 and is by Sir Bertram MacKennal, an Australian sculptor who also designed the likeness of George V that appeared on his coinage.

A thought for Paris

Posted: April 16, 2019 in Announcements

My thoughts are with the people of Paris and the congregation of Notre Dame Cathedral this morning as they assess the damage done to the building by the fire yesterday.

I have been to Paris on a number of occasions and visited the Cathedral in its magnificent setting on an island within the River Seine. A truly magnificent building. It is good news to hear that President Macron has already committed to its restoration.

Keith and I made a trip to the London Wetland centre in search of spring migrants. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much initial evidence except for a number of singing Blackcaps.

On reaching the tower hide we were alerted to a male Yellow Wagtail on the marsh, which was an unexpected bonus.

Yellow Wagtail (m)

Keith thought he heard a Chiffchaff calling near the secluded walk but it didn’t erupt into song and we never did locate it. Otherwise, the resident birds were getting on with preparing for the breeding season.

Tufted Duck (top left), Mute Swan (top centre), Common Redshank (top right) with Grey Heron (bottom)

The Sand Martins were back in evidence over the lakes having completed their journey from their wintering grounds in Africa.

Cowslip (top right), Common Shelduck (top centre), Common Snipe (top right), Tree Bumblebee (bottom left) and Great Crested Grebe (bottom right)

So apart from the Sand Martins, the Blackcaps and the Yellow Wagtail we didn’t find many migrants but there were plenty of other signs of spring with flowers blooming, Bumblebees on the wing and birds preparing sites for nesting.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Western Yellow Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla flava)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

I love walking along the banks of the River Thames whether in the city itself or the more leafy areas surrounding it. Here is an account of a city walk with some interesting literary connections.

Shakespeare’s Globe is located just east of Tate Modern. The reconstruction of the Globe Theatre from 1559 is a must-see for literary travellers.

Literary London: A stroll along South Bank with Dickens and Shakespeare — For Book Lovers and Random People

It is interesting that apart from the materials from which they were made the Roman doctor /surgeons instrument kit resembles that which was still in use up until relatively recent times

Probes, needles and sharp hooks

Probes, needles and sharp hooks

Scoops, probes and spoons

Scoops, probes and spoons





These examples all from the collection of the British Museum


This image of a doctor’s surgery is taken from a Greek vase made in Athens about 480 to 470 BCE. On the left the dwarf can be seen ushering the patients into the surgery, where people are waiting to be seen by a physician. In the centre a seated Physician is seen treating a patient’s arm. Another patient who was already been treated and has his arm bandaged looks on. The hare or rabbit held by the dwarf may be the patients payment to the physician for the treatment he is receiving.

This frieze can be seen in the British Museum and the vase in the Musee du Louvre in Paris



3650 is a representative of the class 57 shunting engine, which operated on the Great Western Railway. It was built at Swindon in 1939 and worked through to 1963 when it was sold to Stephenson Clarke Ltd to work on a colliery in South Wales. It was purchased from there by a member of the Great Western Society in 1969 and was transferred first to Hereford and then to Didcot. Restoration took nearly 20 years but it was finally returned to working order in 2008.

These small shunting engines were among the commonest on the railway. 863 class 57 engines were built in total and like the diesel class 08 shunter which I featured a few days ago they formed the invisible work horses which kept the railways running.


Posted: April 9, 2019 in Birds, London, Natural History, UK

I was pleased to hear our first Blackcap of the year singing in my garden a few evenings ago.

Blackcap (m)

The Blackcap is a small warbler, primarily a summer visitor is easily identifiable if seen. Both sexes are similar but the male, as its name suggests, has a black cap, whilst the female has a brown cap.

Blackcap (f)

It is estimated that around 1.2 million pairs breed in the UK and whilst most depart in the autumn, a growing number (currently estimated at around 3000 birds) now spend the winter here. However, research has shown that these are mostly birds that have bred in Germany or NE Europe rather than UK breeding birds.

Blackcap (m)